Police and SCDF called in after suspicious letter sent to The Straits Times newsroom

Police and SCDF officers investigating a suspicious letter at the newsroom of The Straits Times in Toa Payoh on Nov 2, 2018.
Police and SCDF officers investigating a suspicious letter at the newsroom of The Straits Times in Toa Payoh on Nov 2, 2018.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Several tests were conducted on the envelope by SCDF’s HazMat specialists and no harmful substances were detected.
Several tests were conducted on the envelope by SCDF’s HazMat specialists and no harmful substances were detected.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - The police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) were called in to the newsroom of The Straits Times on Friday afternoon (Nov 2) after a suspicious letter was received.

Three employees said they felt dizzy after coming in contact with the letter, which appeared to have been sent from abroad as it bore United Kingdom postage stamps.

Security officers at the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) News Centre in Toa Payoh, where the newsroom is located, reported the matter  to the police, who then alerted the SCDF.

Upon arrival, SCDF officers cordoned off an area in the newsroom and secured the envelope within a sealed container.

An SCDF spokesman said HazMat specialists conducted several tests on the envelope and no harmful substances were detected.

“The office where the envelope was opened and nearby areas were decontaminated as a precautionary measure,” he added.

He said the three employees who had opened the envelope were assessed by an SCDF paramedic and found to be well.

As a precautionary measure, they were instructed to shower and change their clothing.

The envelope and its contents have been handed to the police.

A police spokesman said the case has been classified as intentionally causing alarm and that they are looking into the matter.

The Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez said the suspicious package was delivered to the newsroom on Friday.

It was addressed to “The Straights Times” and  contained several pages of content that was incoherent.

The three employees came into contact with the letter later. They described it as having a pungent, burning smell that left them feeling dizzy. Two also felt teary.

They continued to feel unwell and at about 4pm, security was informed and police and the SCDF were alerted.

An area in the newsroom was cordoned off while the package was investigated and tested by the SCDF officers. 

“This took several hours, and reporters continued to work on their reports for the ST website and paper from other parts of the newsroom,” said Mr Fernandez.

At 7pm, the SCDF gave the all-clear.

“All three women have recovered and all ST staff are well,” said Mr Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of SPH’s English/Malay/Tamil Media group.

“We would like to thank the police and the SCDF for their prompt and professional response to this incident,” he added.